Birmingham: After their meek surrender against England in their opening game, a struggling Australia will have to work on their batting frailties when they take on a confident New Zealand in a Group A match of the Champions Trophy here Wednesday. Australia, sans their regular skipper Michael Clarke, proved to be no match to the English side as they suffered a huge 48-run defeat to start their campaign on a wrong foot.
With Clarke, who is suffering from a back problem, still nowhere near making a comeback, it will be a big test for the stand-in skipper George Bailey to turn Australia's fortune around. Australia bowlers Clint McKay, James Faulkner and Shane Watson did a decent job in restricting England to 269 when they were looking at a 300-plus score at one stage but they still need to add more sting to their attack.
The Aussie batsmen could not pose any threat to the England bowlers, who strangulated them with both pace and spin. Barring skipper Bailey and allrounder James Faulkner, none of the batsmen were up the mark. What was baffling was most of them got starts but later blew those away. The two-time champions, hence, will have to re-think about the team composition as another defeat will pave their way for an early exit from the tournament.
"We need to get the balance right, we need to get partnerships going, that needs to be addressed. We have to turn around things," Bailey had said after their loss to England. New Zealand, on the other hand, are high on confidence having started their campaign on a winning note, beating Sri Lanka by one wicket. The 2000 winners came into the tournament after a morale-boosting 2-1 series win over England and they would look to carry their good form when they clash with Australia.
Left-arm medium pacer Mitchell McClenaghan, pace spearhead Kyle Mills and their part-time spinner Nathan McCullum did a wonderful job, sharing eight Sri Lakan wickets among them in their opener and skipper Brendon McCullum will expect a similar effort Wednesday as well. However, the Kiwis will have to work on their batting as they would not want the job to be left till the last man, the way it happened against the Sri Lankans.
New Zealand have an able opener in Martin Guptill, who smashed two consecutive hundreds in the England series, while their batting mainstay Ross Taylor also have been in good form ahead of the champions Trophy. Brendon too on his day can demolish any attack but his batsmen panicked during their chase against Sri Lanka in the low-scoring match and this is one area, the skipper would want his team to improve.
Australia: David Warner, Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, George Bailey (C), Adam Voges, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Marsh, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Clint McKay.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Luke Ronchi, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Brendon McCullum (C), James Franklin, Daniel Vettori, Nathan McCullum, Tim Southee, Kyle Mills, Mitchell McClenaghan.